Coca‑Cola is running a small pilot program to see if engraving product information directly onto bottles could replace labels on drink bottles. | DenisMArt/Shutterstock

In a trial project aiming to simplify recycling and reduce the use of material, Coca‑Cola will temporarily remove labels from some Sprite go bottles in the UK and instead use label engraving.

In eight grocery stories in England, there will be no labels on the Sprite and Sprite Zero 500ml RPET bottles from January to March 2024. Instead, there will be an embossed logo on the front and laser-engraved product information on the back, according to a Jan. 29 press release

“While existing labels are fully recyclable, removing them simplifies the recycling process,” the press release added. “It removes the need to separate them from the bottles during the recycling process and reduces the amount of packaging material used overall.” 

Scott Trenor, technical director and olefins technical committee lead at the Association of Plastic Recyclers (APR), noted that existing Sprite bottles, including the labels, were designed in accordance with the APR Design Guide and are therefore easily separated during the PET recycling process. (APR owns Resource Recycling, Inc., which publishes Plastics Recycling Update.) 

“The label-less bottle is an interesting innovation,” Trenor added. “Benefits from a lack of label include a reduction in the amount of plastic, adhesive and inks used in packaging which ultimately leads to less waste during the PET recycling process.” 

Coca-Cola has made several other changes to its Sprite bottles in recent years to improve recyclability, including removing the distinctive green coloration from the bottles, attaching the caps to the bottles in the European market and lightweighting. 

Ruben Nance, APR program director of preferred design recognition, added that the “lack of label contamination will also result in higher yields and a better quality PCR.”

“Coke has designed beyond our highest standard of recyclability by removing both the colorant and label,” Nance noted. 

Javier Meza, vice president of marketing for Coca‑Cola Europe, said in the press release that “although the design change may sound simple, this is a big shift from a marketing perspective.”

“This trial could contribute to longer-term changes to the way brands communicate with their consumers,” Meza added. 

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